England International cricketer Paul Nixon, Aston Villa Legend Stiliyan Petrov, and England and Chelsea star striker Eniola Aluko are helping a Birmingham-based HIV awareness charity to launch a new sporting campaign at Edgbaston Stadium – in time to capture a public imagination inspired by the drama of the Ashes.
Paul Nixon and Stiliyan Petrov are both founding sporting ambassadors for the charity Saving Lives. On Tuesday, 23rd July, the charity and a host of sporting stars will launch Cricket Saving Lives, a campaign aimed at fans of the sport who haven’t considered what HIV might mean for them – and who it is that might be at risk of it.
Stiliyan Petrov has overseen previous successes for the charity, which has worked with Premier League football clubs to raise awareness of HIV. “As the founding patron of Football Saving Lives I am delighted that the charity’s work is now spreading into so many other sports,” he said.
“Cricket, like football is watched, by millions worldwide. By harnessing the popularity of the sport, its clubs and its players, we can really help change attitudes about HIV – and HIV testing.”
One in four of those in the UK who are living with HIV are unaware they are infected; that means they will get sicker than they need to, that they are more likely to die – and that they probably unknowingly passing on their infection.
A simple test can prevent all this. Today’s drugs can give people a near-to-normal life expectancy, and render them non-infectious. But they must take the test – and the earlier the better. That means we need to do more to improve awareness of HIV and HIV testing.
Saving Lives works with Premiership football clubs, Olympic medal-winners, world champions and grassroots sports clubs to raise the profile of HIV. Stigma can still dissuade many from taking a life-saving test. The aim is to encourage more people to test for the virus by promoting a more positive image for the condition.
Founding Cricket Saving Lives ambassador is Paul Nixon is a retired England international cricketer. He said: “I am proud to be the founding Ambassador for Cricket Saving Lives. I’m currently coaching the Jamaican CPL Team, so unfortunately cannot be at Edgbaston on the day – but I’m delighted that cricketing stars like Warwickshire’s Darren Maddy and Paul Best are lending their support .
Eniola Aluko became involved with the charity when she was playing for Birmingham City Ladies and has recently returned from representing her country at the Euros 2013. “Saving Lives is a hugely important charity and sports stars are role models to children and adults alike if we can raise awareness and get people tested for HIV or even prevent them getting infected in the first place, that has to be a good thing,” she said.
Other sporting ambassadors will be in attendance at the event, representing the full range of sports with which Saving Lives has worked, These include Recently returned from the Women’s Euro 2013 tournament England International and Chelsea Ladies Football star Eniola Aluko, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Togo International footballer, Razak Boukari; Team GB water polo players, Megan Clark and Georgia Linney; 400M Team GB sprinter, Somto Erucie; British women’s power lifting champion, Jordana Freemantle; and the Worcester Warriors Community Rugby Coach, Tim Pickard;
“Although there hasn’t been a mainstream general awareness campaign about HIV for some years now, the virus has not gone away,” says Dr Steve Taylor, the charity’s Medical Director. “Events like these, and the ongoing support of our sporting ambassadors, give us the chance to emphasise that HIV can affect us all – and that a simple test can get people onto today’s life-saving treatment when they need it.
Following a recent campaign featuring the sporting ambassadors, sixteen per cent of sexual health clinic attendees inBirminghamcited the Saving Lives material as their reason for seeking a test. Almost half of these people reported no other exposure to sexual health messaging.
The launch coincides with the under-9’s Warwickshire Cricket Finals, and junior cricket players and HIV-positive children alike will be given the opportunity to tour one of the country’s most prestigious cricket grounds, and meet their sporting heroes. At lunchtime, there will be photo opportunities, and the celebrities will also watch the children play some cricket.
“Better awareness, and more positive education, can really making a difference to people’s lives,” says Dr Taylor. “You can now live a long and full life with HIV – if you get tested early enough. There’s no need to believe all the old myths about the condition. Just get tested. It saves lives.”